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Annual event encourages healthy travel

Bike, Walk and Wheel organizers hope for 2,000 participants.
Thursday, May 4, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Get some exercise, help the environment, promote safety and save money on gasoline, all while spending time with your family.

After a year of planning, the fifth annual Bike, Walk and Wheel Week is about to arrive. From Friday through May 13, Columbia residents will be able to explore the benefits of non-motorized transportation, focusing on — as the name implies—biking, walking and wheeling around town.

Judy Knudson, event coordinator for the fifth straight year, has worked with her committee to prepare.

“This is a week when we are encouraging people to explore ways to get to their destinations under their own power,” Knudson said.

It looks like many will be doing just that. According to the Pednet Coalition Web site, 1,750 people participated in the event last year. Knudson said 1,800 people have registered this year, and she expects more than 2,000 to participate before the week is over.

And there are lots of activities to choose from. The week begins with a bike-car challenge, in which residents and media personalities will perform tasks either on wheels or on foot to determine which method is more efficient.

“It’s a wacky little way to kick it off,” Knudson said.

Mayor Darwin Hindman and state Sen. Chuck Graham, honorary coordinator of the event, will lead the official kickoff event Saturday afternoon.

The rest of the week is packed with activities, including the cycle-recycle event, where people can donate functional bicycles that will be distributed to other residents and the free breakfasts for anyone who either walks or wheels to one of 11 locations.

All week, bicyclists who reach a tough spot in the road or need help getting home in the dark can ride city buses for free, space permitting.

Graham, who uses a wheelchair, said he hopes people will take advantage of the week’s programs. He said Columbia promotes a healthy lifestyle, and he appreciates the efforts to become more pedestrian friendly. He said the program also boosts awareness about people who use wheelchairs.

“I appreciate Columbia’s openness and diversity,” Graham said.

Hindman said he has pushed to improve walking conditions and to get people involved in “self-propelled transportation” since he came into office. The week’s program is an extension of the Mayor’s Challenge, which he began five years ago.

“It’s a really good thing for the community,” Hindman said, adding that biking, walking and wheeling improves lives by making people healthier and encouraging them to interact with neighbors.

“(Knudson) and the committee have worked really hard,” Hindman said. Knudson said the generosity of sponsors means all the activities will be free and many will offer prizes. She said the real goal of the week is to make people more aware of how they get around town.

“I’m just really excited about everything we have going on this year,” Knudson said. “I think this will be the best one ever.”

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